Labor rights advocacy group Migrant Care has urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to speak up to ASEAN leaders about the protection of migrant workers, an issue that has been overlooked for years.
Jokowi is heading to Bangkok this weekend to attend the 34th ASEAN Summit, where he is expected to participate in a series of leaders meetings.
Migrant CARE executive director Wahyu Susilo said on Thursday that as leader of the country with the largest population in ASEAN, Jokowi should speak up about the protection of migrant workers.
Although ASEAN has issued a set of commitments on migrant workers, there is still reluctance from member states, especially destination countries, to translate them into concrete mechanisms, he said.
“Compared to other sectors under the ASEAN socio-cultural pillar, the migrant worker's issue is lagging behind in operational and measurable protection mechanisms,” Wahyu said in a statement.
ASEAN leaders signed the ASEAN Consensus on the Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in the Philippines in 2017, but no immediate follow-up to a more legally binding agreement has been made since.
The issue is mostly being discussed at the sectoral level among ASEAN labor ministers.
Migrant workers remain an integral aspect of ASEAN economies owing to the significant contributions gleaned from remittances. Even though such contributions for Indonesia only account for 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), remittances constitute 10 percent of GDP for the Philippines, 7 percent for Vietnam and 5 percent for Myanmar.
In the meantime, Wahyu said there were some alarming developments related to the potential exposure of migrant workers to ideas of radicalism and violent extremism in the region.
Therefore, Indonesia should be actively promoting the integration of prevention initiatives with mechanisms for protecting migrant workers, for when they are in their home countries and in the destination country, he said.